On Monday, Kate Drake passed the time between classes by doing homework in a corner at Starbucks, her iPod earbuds blocking out the lunchtime traffic. Drake, a junior, does not necessarily agree with the idea of a national chain serving her coffee, but the franchise’s convenience makes it hard to stay away.
“The only reason I sit here is because they’re the only ones on campus that will take my Visa card,” Drake said. “Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against the college students who work at Starbucks, but generally the service is half-[baked] and the prices are jacked up.”
Starbucks, located on the ground floor of the TECH Center, opened its doors on Feb. 13. Many students and patrons said they acknowledge concerns with the new franchise, but still enjoy Starbucks for its convenience, selection and atmosphere.
The Seattle-based company operates 4,666 franchises in the United States, according to an August 2005 company fact sheet. There are more than 20 in Philadelphia.
“It pushes out the entrepreneurs,” Drake said. “Gosh, there’s a Starbucks on every block in this town.”
Despite the fact that some students find it intrusive, the new Starbucks is one of the only eat-in cafes on campus, joining the Barnes & Noble cafe on Broad Street and Lucky Cup locations in Annenberg, Ritter and Wachman halls. Lucky Cup is a subsidiary of Sodexho and Temple’s Dining Services.
Some students said they are concerned that the convenience of the new location will make it hard for privately-owned coffee shops to compete.
Stocks of Starbucks on the Nasdaq Stock Market rose $10 last year, said Simon Gerzon, owner of the “Best Coffee and Fresh Pretzels” stand. “Why? Because they charge extra money,” Gerzon said. “The opposite is being self-employed. It’s good prices, good money for everybody. That’s it.”
Coffee vendors on campus are aware of the new Starbucks, but said they were unafraid of the competition.
“My coffee is better,” Gerzon said. “The pretzels are much better. Starbucks, their prices are very expensive.”
For some, the problem with Starbucks is the reputation, not the corporation. Some students said they avoid the cafe because of its patrons.
“With all of these kids running around and studying, it’s pretty much a get-together place,” Edward Guinzo said.
Other students disagreed. Some said the trendy atmosphere is Starbucks’ main draw. Countless students seek out the cafe despite its prices.
“Sometimes you want to have a Starbucks coffee,” Jack Hagopian said. “It’s probably better to get a smaller guy, but the only thing about getting a smaller guy is selecting the right one.”
For most students, what it comes down to is the coffee itself.
Many privately-owned shops have bowed to Starbucks, for better or worse.
“I’m not really much for corporations,” Drake said. “I’ve lost a lot of the places that I go for coffee that actually taste better than the mass-produced stuff.”
Chris Reber can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.